Students beware: Heavy laptop usage leads to bad posture, physical pain

Feel like a slave to your laptop? That "addiction" can hurt you in ways beyond affecting your social life.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

Feel like a slave to your laptop? That "addiction" can hurt you in ways beyond affecting your social life. According to a new report from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, heavy use of a notebook computer can lead to any number of physical ailments, including headaches, muscle soreness in your neck and back, and -- no surprise here -- carpal tunnel syndrome.

The researchers suggest that because laptops are built with unified body construction, users are left with few ways to work with them that would reduce the risk of long-term physical pain. Hunching down to see your screen can lead to bad posture, and nerve damage to your wrists can come from awkward placement of your hands while typing on cramped keyboards. (Of course, plenty of people get carpal tunnel syndrome using desktop keyboards as well.)

Students heading off to college, laptop in tow, can be particularly susceptible to these injuries while using their computer for hours on end. The UNC researchers offer several recommendations to minimize the potential damage. Some require an outlay that may not fit in your budget -- an adjustable chair with back support (i.e., not the desk chair found standard in a dorm room), a docking station and external monitor to give you a bigger view of your work while you're at your desk -- but there are also some no-cost tips. For instance, take breaks every 20 minutes while working to shift your body position and stretch your muscles. You should also drink plenty of water, which, among many other benefits, keeps the discs in your back sufficiently lubricated.

Any other tips to combat "laptop fatigue syndrome" (my term not theirs)? Let us know in the Comments section.

[Via MSN Health & Fitness]

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